Praetorian Rising Q & A
WITH GUEST WRITER Drew Menard
Ad Asta Per Aspera
It is the rallying cry of the Rogue Rebellion in “Praetorian Rising,” the debut novel from Jessie McSpadden. Translated, the phrase means “To the Stars Through Difficulty.” In the kingdom of Aspera, ruled by the cruel High King LeMarc Lowenhaar, hope is but a twinkle in the eye of a small batch of rogues, hoping to free their people and bring peace to the land.
McSpadden’s journey to publish “Praetorian Rising” was a labor of love, years in the making. But the world of Aspera is just beginning; she has a full series in the works. Read an interview with McSpadden on the first installment below. Get your copy of “Praetorian Rising” today on Amazon and join the Rogue Rebellion on social media, #PraetorianRising.
Drew: Tell us a little about yourself.
Jessie: To start I will say I never went to school to be a writer. I actually went to school to work in film. I wanted to be a CG animator, build things like dinosaurs and monsters. After watching Jurassic Park and Lord of the Rings, I wanted to know how to be a part of the film industry. After going to school and moving to Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time unemployed in the beginning, and I think it was a blessing in disguise. Most of my first few years living in Los Angeles, I wrote the skeleton of Praetorian Rising. Like I said, I didn’t have formal schooling in writing, and I definitely made a lot of mistakes. But since I was small, I have always been an avid reader. To know your craft you have to be an avid absorber of it. I don’t just read books though, I studied them. After about 3 years of just writing scenes and building these characters in my head I realized I had a story. Eight years later, I have not just one book but an entire world that I want to share with everyone, and truth be told I am quite anxious to tell this story. It’s a matter of time, and diligent writing to make sure I capture the story correctly! I won’t be a George R.R. Martin; I will get this series out faster than 8-10 years at a time!
We’re here to talk about the release of PRAETORIAN RISING! Can you give us an overview of the book?
Praetorian Rising starts with suspense, action, and intrigue from the first page. You are pulled into Camille’s story after she wakes in a strange village without any recollection of who she is. Soon, she is pulled into a rebellion against the High King of Aspera and she must decide if she is going to stand and fight alongside the Rogue Rebellion or flee. My goal with this series was to create a new fantasy world, filled with struggle, love, battles and adventure. In a way, write the story Tolkien might have written if he were actually a she. On a whole, I’d say it’s very much in the world setting of Hunger Games, Throne of Glass, and Lord of the Rings. It’s not Dystopian but more of its own world like Lord of the Rings.
Your cover is very compelling—I’m seeing a lot of emotion and mystery and getting some YA/fantasy vibes. What drives your protagonist? What kind of emotions will readers experience on this journey?
First, I have to say that my cover artist from Damonza did an INCREDIBLE job. I honestly couldn’t believe how perfectly they captured my vision of what I was trying to portray. What I wanted to showcase with the cover was the determination to move forward even if it was slightly against the Protagonist’s original nature. In the cover she is being propelled forward, and yet as much as she doesn’t want to, she is walking forward with sword in hand ready to fight. This book is very much an emotional rollercoaster in a way self-discovery books should be. Life isn’t moving at an even pace and I want Praetorian Rising and the world of Aspera to be realistic in how everyday people feel emotion: love, discomfort, uncertainty, frustration, jealousy, anger, excitement, and the most comforting of feeling at home. This book is meant to pull you in and make you feel what the characters are feeling from every side of the coin.
I’m a fan of stories with great villains. Who is your antagonist? For you, what was important in a villain to serve as a foil that truly challenges your heroes?
The main villain in this series is The High King of Aspera, LeMarc Lowenhaar. I too enjoy an amazing, creepy, and downright evil villain, but for me, a villain needs to have a purpose behind their motives. Without a reason for making their actions, there would be no purpose for them to be “evil.” Villains more than anything else need a history and a reason they diverted from the “light” so to speak. And LeMarc is a top-notch villain.
Could you introduce us to one of your supporting characters? Someone who perhaps doesn’t get the most spotlight but stands out to you?
For this book, an incredible supporting character is Charlie Ballen. She (yes, SHE) is a character I very much look forward to writing. Her story is incredible, and her back history is intense. What stands out most to me about her is the path that she is embarking on. The readers from the get-go of meeting her will see what I mean, but to put it in a non-spoiler light—Charlie struggles with what most of us women have to struggle with our whole life: proving we are strong, capable women who can take care of ourselves and yet ALSO have emotional needs. I look forward to her journey and hope that the readers enjoy her as much as I do!
What are some of the themes in this book?
One of the most important themes for me in this first book is self-discovery. I think from the get-go, Camille not knowing who she is or where she is in the very first chapter sets off a precedent of her needing to figure out what her story is. I think learning how to deal with your past and the consequences of how it affects your future is also a huge theme. There is a very strong undertone of pushing back against an oppressive ruler, which in today’s world, I am pulling A LOT from current events. Which to be honest is scary to say. But it’s true.
Are there any things that you hope readers will take away from the story?
I hope readers take away a sense of hope for a better future, and if not the full feeling of hope the understanding that fighting for what you believe in is the best thing you can do. I also think it’s important to see that protecting and caring for your loved ones is important, but sometimes you need to think outside the box. We are all humans, and we all need love, protection and a place to call home even if we don’t all look the same or come from the same places.
Let’s talk about your writing process.
Oh dear, OK well this is just a cluster in general! I mean, I doubt any writer, any artsy person can say that have a very strict “process.” I will say, however, I learned what NOT to do, and what did work in the eight years of working on this first book. I started out just writing. I had a scene, an idea and that was it. I wrote it down. And then I liked it so much, I liked the idea of Camille so much, that I wrote more scenes. Soon, I had a shit-ton of scenes and no story, so I had to backtrack and create a world. I realized that for me, and it’s different for everyone, that I work best knowing the outline of my story. Not EVERY scene, but I like to outline the action of what needs to happen. I need to know how I am going to move the story forward to ensure I don’t have ancillary crap that is just fluff…or as my editor likes to call it, “purple prose.”
How long has this story been with you?
Eight years, but I feel like the depth of the story and characters really became a full world to me about four years ago.
Where did the creative inspiration story come from?
Praetorian Rising was originally inspired by a song called Knights of Cydonia, by Muse. I saw a scene in my head play out like a movie and I very stereotypically JUMPED out of bed and ran to my desk and started to scribble out the base structure of the scene and the fiery red headed woman at the center of it. The next morning, I wrote the scene in full (which at the moment lives at the VERY END of Book 2—I know, a long way to wait my readers, but eventually I will get you there, I promise!) and I had not just a character but a conduit to share my experiences, my emotions and my take on what it means to be a woman fighting for her right to live and survive in a world dominated by men.
Talk a little about how you managed to get from that idea to where you are today, with a paper book in hand—lots of late nights? Early mornings? Typing through lunch break?
The bulk of my first draft was written while I was on the job. Massive thanks to my boss (you are the best Dave!) for letting me sit there and work on my book. But shhh, that’s a secret! When I wasn’t working—which in the film industry you work 12 hours minimum 6 days a week when starting in order to make a name for yourself—I was at home with my puppy and writing through the night. I am a night owl at heart. But as I’ve gotten older, my job has become more intense, and my weekends more packed up, it gets harder and harder to find the time. I have realized that I need peace and quiet, outdoor scenery, and lots of wine and coffee. I was able to push through the first draft of Book 2 in 5 weeks during nanowrimo2019 because I had no job then and LOTS of quiet time. If I don’t have that time, I do weekend getaways for small clips of days at a time. The alone time without social media is important!
What does it mean to you to finally see the book in print?
I cried. I had this biggest smile on my face and my cheeks hurt but I couldn’t stop smiling! Just over a year ago, right before my birthday, I told myself that enough was enough, no more waiting for someone to “find” me, no more asking an agent to back me, I was done! I wanted my dreams to come true and I wasn’t willing to wait anymore, so I went out and did it myself. To see it done and in my hands was the most surreal and wonderfully amazing feeling I have ever felt in my life. It’s the biggest accomplishment and honestly, the most satisfying thing about it is hearing all the positive feedback.
What do you enjoy writing the most in your stories: The action? The dialogue? The little character moments?
The dialogue is my ABSOLUTE favorite. I have LONG commutes (#LAtraffic) and I often will be thinking of a scene and the dialogue will always come to me first. I will hit record on my phone and even do voices of the characters as I drive…well really crawl…home from work. It always enables me to think through the mood of the scene and the purpose of the moment.
Next, I LOVE exposition and describing the characters. Digging into what makes a character them, and also what they do when in a scene is so enjoyable. Everyone has their ticks, and I love being able to capture them in a way to showcase to the reader an emotion I want them to feel without me having to say it.
What would you say to encourage or offer as advice for other aspiring authors seeking to tell their stories?
WRITE! Put down the phone, get off Instagram and write!! We will all be here when you come back, but don’t stop writing. I know it’s hard, trust me I work a very demanding job and I will go months without writing a word, but when the inspiration strikes make sure you get yourself to a place to write it down.
Second, I’d say go easy on yourself on the first and second draft. There are so many people out there willing to beta and edit that you need to stop trying to be perfect the first time around and just get the story and the mood of the characters on the page. Perfection comes in your final draft and even then, you will just have to tell yourself it’s time to move on and send your baby out into the world!
What’s next for you, now that you are a published author?
Well, first I grabbed a glass of whiskey and cheered with my husband that Praetorian Rising is a THING that is DONE!!! He has been the biggest support throughout all of this and celebrating with him was my number one. And now that the first one is out there for all to read, I am working diligently on Book 2! To say I am just getting started is an understatement. These characters, this world, and all that is in it are going to be going on a wild adventure. I sincerely hope that I can pull everyone along for the ride. It’s going to be INCREDIBLE.